New Report Shows that Contrary to California Law, Many Parole Hearings for Transgender and Nonbinary People Include Misgendering

A new study of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) parole hearings by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the Social Justice Legal Foundation finds 43% of parole hearings for transgender and nonbinary people included misgendering and/or insensitive comments.

For instance, one nonbinary 44-year-old individual asked to be addressed by name, rather than any pronoun, but the commissioners pushed the parole seeker to choose a pronoun. On another occasion, a commissioner questioned whether a parole seeker would remain sober because the “LGBTQ community has big parties.”

In January 2021, California enacted the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act (TRADA), which requires, among other things, that CDCR use proper gender pronouns and honorifics for transgender/nonbinary people in CDCR custody.

For the first time since the enactment of TRADA, researchers reviewed transcripts of 42 parole hearings from January 1, 2021 – February 28, 2022 in which the individual seeking parole identified as transgender or nonbinary. They aimed to understand how transgender and nonbinary individuals fare in parole hearings.

Results also show that about one-third of transgender/nonbinary parole seekers were granted parole, at about the same rate as the general population of parole seekers during that time period.
Having an explicit housing plan was an important factor in granting parole—56% of transgender/nonbinary people with a housing plan were granted parole as compared to 13% of individuals who did not have an explicit housing plan.

“Finding appropriate transitional housing is extraordinarily challenging for transgender individuals,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Often transitional housing is gender segregated and many facilities simply do not accept transgender individuals despite California law that bars discrimination in housing. Excluding transgender individuals from this already scarce resource only increases the already steep challenges they face to re-entry.”

“This brief provides an important first glimpse into the treatment of transgender and nonbinary individuals seeking parole in California, but more data is needed,” said lead author Claire Simonich, a public interest attorney who worked as a Senior Attorney at the Social Justice Legal Foundation at the time the research was conducted. “The California Parole Board should develop protocols to assess the experiences and monitor the treatment of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex parole seekers.”

Read the report here.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

The Social Justice Legal Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing social justice by focusing on groundbreaking trial work and innovative collaboration across private, public, and academic sectors.